Shemʿun the Stylite Simeon the Stylite (ca. 380–459)

Saint. Born in the village of Sisa near Nicopolis, Shemʿun was the child of Christian parents. Uninstructed in the faith, he happened to enter a church, and thereafter sought God. First he lived with some ascetics near his village, and then spent 10 years in the Monastery of Tell ʿAda before being asked to leave because of his extreme ascetic practices. He traveled to Telneshe, where he spent 3 years on a nearby summit in a small domed hut before standing in the open air within a circle of stones. Later, he mounted the first of several increasingly higher pillars till he reached a height of around 20 meters. Here he took his stance of continual prayer. For 47 years he prayed and prostrated, adjudicated and advised, healed and harmed. His fame reached from the Persian Empire to Britain, and pilgrims flocked to his pillar from all levels of society. His novel asceticism of standing on a pillar aroused criticism, but was later imitated. Shemʿun attempted to persuade Theodoret of Cyrrhus to accept the Formula of Reunion of 433 between bishops John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria. On his death, his body was brought with great pomp to Antioch and buried there. His life is known through the works of three writers: Theodoret of Cyrrhus devoted to Shemʿun a chapter of his ‘History of the Monks of Syria’, written in 444 before the death of Shemʿun; a life written in Syriac and extant in 3 mss. (ms. Vat. Syr. 160, ed. S. E. Assemani, Acta Sanctorum et Martyrum, vol. II [1748], 230–398; ms. Brit. Libr. Add. 14,484, ed. Bedjan, AMS, vol. IV, 507–644; Dam. Patr. 12/17) seems to stem from the monastic community which grew up around Shemʿun’s pillar and would have been written in the last half of the 5th cent.; finally, a life in Greek claiming to have been written by his intimate disciple, Antonius. The three lives give basically the same description of Shemʿun’s life till his stance on the pillar and of the circumstances surrounding his death, but there are almost no narratives in common for the time he spent on the pillar. In what appears to be a genuine letter to bp. Basil of Antioch, Shemʿun accepts the Council of Chalcedon, though three letters ascribed to him are anti-Chalcedon. His feast day is 27 July for the Syr. Church, 1 Sept. for the Greek Church.

See Fig. 112.


  • P. Canivet, Le monachisme syrien selon Théodoret de Cyr (Théologie historique 42; 1977).
  • H. Delehaye, Les Saints Stylites (1923).
  • R. Doran, The Lives of Simeon Stylites (1992).
  • D.  Frankfurter, ‘Stylites and Phallobates: Pillar Religions in Late Antique Syria’, VC 44 (1990), 168–98.
  • L.  Lent, ‘The Life of St. Simeon Stylites: A translation of the Syriac text in Bedjan’s Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, vol. IV’, JAOS 25 (1915), 103–98.
  • H.  Lietzmann, Das Leben des heiligen Symeon Stylites (TU 32,4; 1908).
  • R. M.  Price, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, A History of the Monks of Syria (1985).
  • C. C.  Torrey, ‘The Letters of Simeon the Stylite’, JAOS 20 (1899), 253–76.

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Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
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